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  #1  
Old 08-15-2006, 07:37 AM
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Low number 1903 Springfield safety?


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I am considering buying a low number 1903 Springfield that has been sporterized by adding Weaver scope mounts, barrel cut to 22" and front sight replaced, sporter stock, and the action appears to have been reblued. It is definately low number (269,xxx) made at Springfield Armory, and I know they are considered brittle and subject to potential damage with factory loads. It is not a Sedgley sporterized version so far as I can tell; I have read that Sedgley reheatreated the low number Springfields they sporterized.
So now my question. I have asked my local gunsmith and he knew of no way to determine if the action has been reheatreated. Does anyone know of a test or exmination ie. hardness test, that will tell if this action is safe. Is there any place in the Oklahoma area that heat treats actions or hardness tests them? I normally would pass on this rifle, but the price is very reasonable. The pawnshop has lost his license and has till Nov. 1 to sell all his guns. BTW, the ATF has been actively scrutenizing the local gun dealers and so far has revoked two licenses of pawnshops that had been licensed for over 20 years. Thanks
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Old 08-15-2006, 09:41 AM
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Been a lot of controversey on this issue.

Many of the old, low number Springfields have been made up into sporters, as you see by the one you have found, and have functioned perfectly for all these years.

The very few that had failures mostly occurred on the battlefields of WWI and there was conjecture as to the true cause. Townsend Whelen (the primary supervisor of Springfield Armory during these days) thought it was possible the troops picked up British .303 cartridges on the battlefields and tried firing them in the '03. Others thought foreign debris had blocked to bores or actions.

Admittedly, the improper heat treatment was conducted on the receivers during initial manufacturing. Would suggest a reading of the several books available on this rifle to gain better insight.

Don't know of anywhere to get the action reheat treated - might give some of the gunsmiths in your area a call to see if they might have a lead.
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  #3  
Old 08-15-2006, 10:24 AM
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According to the American Rifleman reprint Military Rifles (May 1991, page 3), before WW1, receivers and bolts were made of case-hardened carbon-manganese steel. Some of these rifles failed either in the receiver or bolt area from "high pressure or other abuse." The double-heat treatment was started in 1918 with SA receiver 800,000, and at Rock Island with receiver 285,507. It goes on to say that "Receivers earlier than these cannot reliably be improved by any re-heat-treatment."
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Old 08-23-2006, 06:31 PM
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I was in the same quandry this past winter myself when I picked up a very nicely sporterized 03 Springfield that fell within the number range for the Rock Island Arsenal rifles.

Having read many articles on the hardening issue over the years I just couldn't believe someone would go to the expense of customizing to turn one into a wall flower. They did it to shoot and if you look close you'll see the evidence that they have been shot! In some case they have been shoot alot.

If one doesn't shoot hot loads or other abusive ammo I figured I would be okay.. Hence factory ammo falls in that defination.. MilSur might be diffenent and of course reloads I limit to my own that are well within safe margins (no more than half way between the low and high powder charge range for a given powder/bullet combination).

One of the tests I read about in an article was where a bunch of receivers were obtained from a source that fell within the various serial number ranges. These were suspended in such a manner that they could be hit with a hammer in there side rails. Some broke and some didn't. To me this isn't a very conclusive test. First of all the barrel is screwed into the action and the locking lugs are ahead of the side rails so what does hitting them with a hammer have to do with the receiver strenght where the barrel joins and the locking lugs lock?

Well I bought the rifle as the workmanship was outstanding as was the wood and stock fitting. The bluing would put most gun makers to shame today but the most important thing was it shoots 1/2" MOA. Not bad for $250 at a gun show.

As an earlier post noted there are different possible reasons for failure on the battlefield. Did any failures occure that could be actually traced to a real cause? Never read anything to that effect myself but maybe other forum members have.
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  #5  
Old 08-25-2006, 09:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kdub
The very few that had failures mostly occurred on the battlefields of WWI and there was conjecture as to the true cause. Townsend Whelen (the primary supervisor of Springfield Armory during these days) thought it was possible the troops picked up British .303 cartridges on the battlefields and tried firing them in the '03. Others thought foreign debris had blocked to bores or actions.
First of all, most of my old books are in storage, so this is from memory. And since memory is the second thing to go (and I've already forgotten the first. . .)

The '03 Springfield (and the Winchester Model 70) have a cone breach, the weakest of all the Mauser-type actions. Getting a snootfull of mud (probably very easy in trench warfare) could account for any that failed in combat. I'm with the others on that one.

However, my memory is of having read that the problem of '03 Springfield rifles blowing up did not occur until the 1922(?) National Matches. The Military was experimenting with a new bullet (tin plated?) and the bullet was reacting with the brass case in a way that the arsenel had not anticipated. The riflemen at the National Matches were experimenting with a grease on the bullet to combat the problem, and in all of the rifles that failed at Perry that year, residual grease was found in the actions.

The increased pressure (which may have been dramatic) from the tinned bullet bonding to the case, combined with lubrication on the case body allowing much greater back thrust on the bolt lugs, was a likely cause of the multiple failures at Perry that year.

The source was likely Hatcher, but since his books are not at hand, I cannot be sure.

Also, I have a vague memory (they're all getting that way, it seems) of an article in Gun Digest (or maybe The Official Gun Book) a few decades back about someone testing a large number of M1917 Enfield actions by removing the barrelled actions from their stocks and using the barrels as handles to smack the actions against a steel rail (railroad track?). In every case tested the action fractured. Since there was no evidence of Enfields failing in combat, it would seem that the test of slamming the side of the action against a rail was NOT the same as slamming the bolt lugs repeatedly against their seat in the action. Not sure that this is at all related, but my guess is that the heat treating of steel used in rifle actions would have been similar between that used by Springfield and Rock Island and that used by the contractors making P14/M1917 Enfield rifles.

I do not have a low-numbered Springfield (couldn't find one when I could afford it, and cannot afford one now), but wish I did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kdub
Admittedly, the improper heat treatment was conducted on the receivers during initial manufacturing. Would suggest a reading of the several books available on this rifle to gain better insight.
Amen, brother! And Hatcher's Notebook would be a good place to start, even if it turns out not to be the source of the tin-plated bullets at the National Matches story.

The Old Guy
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  #6  
Old 08-26-2006, 03:20 PM
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TOG has it about right. The issue of low numbered receivers failing is a myth. As far as the '03 action being the weakest of the Mauser actions, that is also wrong!
'96 and before are not as strong as the '98, the '03 is based on the '98. That is why '96 actions(small ring) are not suitable for .308 use. 7.62x51 yes, but not .308. These actions have found new barrels (all the way back to the '20's), they shoot larger calibers than I have ever wanted to. Same story as the 8x57 is a sub standard cartridge! All a Myth! JP
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  #7  
Old 08-26-2006, 05:02 PM
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OK - to nip this in the bud - anyone is entitled to their opinions as long as they are expressed in a courteous and respectful manner.

JP has express his and you can disagree, but do so in a manner acceptable to the board.

Thanks, guys (and gals)!
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  #8  
Old 08-26-2006, 06:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kdub
OK - to nip this in the bud - anyone is entitled to their opinions as long as they are expressed in a courteous and respectful manner.

JP has express his and you can disagree, but do so in a manner acceptable to the board.

Thanks, guys (and gals)!
kdub, I am not a fan of the 30.06 cartridge, or the 1903. But I can say it is very effective. The issues come from the 2 piece firing pin. Although the cartridge was not supported completely as it's German cousin, it still is a fine action. JP http://www.m1-garand.com/1903_Springfield.htm

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  #9  
Old 02-27-2010, 08:58 AM
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I don't like to resurrect old threads, but I know people read them and this one has technical mis-information that could mislead someone, so I'm going to add this post anyway.

The problem with low number Springfield receivers did not stem from the 1922 National Match ammo problem (a separate issue), as the Ordnance Department investigation of the self-disassembling receivers was begun in 1920. Nor was it caused by the steel being unsuitable for guns, though, from a safety standpoint, it was less suitable than the double-heat treated and nickel steel that replaced it. The original tended to shatter in failure mode rather than bend.

The main problem was traced to dependency on heat treatment done by the old fashioned method which depended on the judgment of a skilled laborer looking at the color of the steel in an oven. Because the ovens worked at all times of day, the lighting conditions changed and that fools the eye as to the brightness and color of the steel. As a result, when they finally put pyrometers in place, they found the skilled laborers were off by as much as 300 degrees on any given batch.

There is a fairly complete, and mostly accurate description here. Hatcher's Notebook goes through it in detail, as well.
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  #10  
Old 02-27-2010, 07:32 PM
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http://www.odcmp.org/1101/can.pdf

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  #11  
Old 02-27-2010, 07:54 PM
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kdub, I am not a fan of the 30.06 cartridge, or the 1903. But I can say it is very effective. The issues come from the 2 piece firing pin. Although the cartridge was not supported completely as it's German cousin, it still is a fine action. JP http://www.m1-garand.com/1903_Springfield.htm



No ideal what "cartridge was not supported completely as it's German Cousin" The Mauser case protrusion (unsupported case) is .110 + or - very few. When determining head space before installing the barrel case protrusion on the Mauser is determined by measuring case protrusion (my way),



The protrusion of the 30/06 cartridge is measured off the head of the case to the shoulder at the end of the barrel shank threads, I believe case protrusion is important to know, so I measure, I have never found a 30/06 case head protrusion on an 03 or M1917 that measured more than .090 beyond the extractor cut, that is close to .020 thousands less than the Mauser.



It could be me but does the cone face look like the makings of a shaped charge.



Case head thickness, military case head thickness is close to .200, commercial ammo case head thickness is .260+, if someone thought their rifle had excessive case head protrusion, military cases would be a bad choice.



F. Guffey
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  #12  
Old 02-27-2010, 08:17 PM
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"'96 and before are not as strong as the '98, the '03 is based on the '98. That is why '96 actions(small ring) are not suitable for .308 use. 7.62x51 yes, but not .308. These actions have found new barrels (all the way back to the '20's), they shoot larger calibers than I have ever wanted to. Same story as the 8x57 is a sub standard cartridge! All a Myth! JP"

jpatt, there is a twilight zone when comparing receivers by model make and year, the small ring Mauser has a small shank barrel, the Springfield front receiver ring is the same diameter as a small ring Mauser, BUT the 03 Springfield has a large(er) shank barrel meaning the 03 front receiver ring in thinner than the ring on a small ring Mauser, when I am measuring shanks and receiver rings, the M1917 with the larg(er) diameter receiver AND the larger diameter shank (for me) is a better choice, leaving me to believe the metal had to get better in the 03 to become a better more reliable rifle.

F. Guffey
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  #13  
Old 02-28-2010, 06:29 AM
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"Whelen (the primary supervisor of Springfield Armory during these days) thought it was possible the troops picked up British .303 cartridges on the battlefields and tried firing them in the '03. Others thought foreign debris had blocked to bores or actions"

Townsen Whalen would know the rim on a 303 .540, he knew the bolt face on the 03 was .470, this made it impossible to for the extractor to jump the rim meaning the extractor could not get to the extractor cut, the rim on the 303 is .084 thousands thick, then we have to wonder if the soldier managed to close the bolt, would the firing pin been able to reach the primer, plus the rim of the 303 would have hit the cone before the round chambered.

With a little less effort, and the Germans just across no mans land it would have been easier to pick up an 8mm57 round and chamber it, on a marginal effort the .311/.323 Mauser bullet would have been reluctant to get out of the way before the fast burning powder of the time would have decided to get out somewhere else.

And they tried to blame failures at ranges (in the states) to firing 8mm57 ammo, .311/.318 was available but not at the ranges.

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  #14  
Old 02-28-2010, 08:35 AM
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Low number 1903 Springfield Sporter

Last week, I was in a gun shop and saw a very nice 1903 Springfield sporter with a WWII barrel and serial number 359XXX. It had a Redfield base and rings so I could not tell if it was a high number Rock island or a low number Springfield. It was evident that the rifle had been shot a great deal. We haggled a bit and I got the rifle cheap.

At home, I was able to determine it was a low number 1903 Springfield. What to do. I searched the web and came across volumes of information on low number Springfield rifles. The link below was the best article I have read to date. The total number of low number 1903 Springfield rifles made by Rock Island Arsenal and Springfield Armory was about one million rifles. It is interesting to note that the U.S Army did not recall low number Springfield rifles from active duty troops, but merely issued high number rifles to new recruits. When low number rifles were turned in for repair, they were then taken out of service and scrapped. The Marine Corp continued to use low number Springfields well into WWII when M1 Garand rifles were available and issued to troops.

Armed with this information, I took the rifle to the range and ran a number of reloads through it. The rifle did just fine. Al the best...
Gil


http://m1903.com/03rcvrfail/
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Old 02-28-2010, 11:03 AM
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I also ran across this article after posting my first response in this thread. Reading and understanding what the writer was saying has given me new insight into Hatcher's original purpose. Gil as you are enjoying your new toy, I have been enjoying mine for several years.
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  #16  
Old 02-28-2010, 03:20 PM
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My first hi-power rifle was a low numbered Springfield. I still have it. I shoot it less now but that is because I have more guns.
I have made it a point to read everything that I can get my hands on about the problems associated with the low numbered guns. There weren't that many problems. Out of a total of more than a million rifles , there were 70 failures.
Not every receiver made with the old single-heat-treat-gauged-by-eye method, as well described by Unclenick, was a bad receiver. One can, if one wants to take the time, determine what lot of receivers a particular specimen came from and then see what the failure rate for that lot was. Some lots, especially early on, have never had any failures.
All this is by way of making the most comfortable decision about whether or not to make use of a very fine firearm.
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Old 03-01-2010, 07:36 AM
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Jim Keenan participated in the low number receiver exchange program. I supposed it looked tempting but the receiver just laying there got the best of him, he hit it with a shop hammer, not a big hammer, not a malicious hit, just a solid non glancing blow, like glass the receiver shattered, now he wishes he had kept it but that was then, they sent him another receiver.

As to lots, there were none, there was no record as to who was running the furnace on any given day, and serial numbers were not run through the furnace in chronological order.

http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/nica.html

Winchester with Browning just down the freeway in Connecticut (from Springfield) used nickel steel in the Model 94 Winchester in 1895, Springfield started using it in about 1928 14 years after Winchester, Remington and Eddy stone used it in the P14 and later in the M1917. In my opinion, the USA GOVERNMENT would have gotten their money's worth if they had given John Browning all the money to develop and design weapons and then allow him to choose the manufacture, the US would not been in the middle of a shut down in the manufacturing of arms at the beginning of a war because in 14 years of manufacturing Springfield had not figured out how to make a safe rifle., again we went to war with a rifle designed in England made on equipment we purchased from them, that should have been embarrassing to Springfield, then again sending out troops to Cuba with the 30/40 Krag against the Mauser was less than brilliant. Had Browning been in charge, Springfield would not of had job security, they could of had the Mauser, they chose the Krag.



Meets and or exceeds, I have passed on every opportunity I have had to purchase a Low Number 03, the lowest number I have is a Rock Island that is 244+++, I purchased it in Victoria, Texas, scope, mounts rings, Boyd stock and used. I examined the rifle and told the owner of the gun shop if he could convince me the rifle had rifling's I would purchase it. In a hour and a half he emerged with what looked like traces of rifling, the barrel was caked with black hard residue like the bowel of an old cured bowl in a pipe,

the bore of the rifle was less than .300, I could not imagine how much pressure was required to force a bullet down the barrel, but, it did not blow up, I only had one concern, what effect did the high pressure have on the receiver, I cleaned the barrel, looked new inside, checked the head space, I loaded 100 rounds and went to the range, I thought the rifle was worth the effort. I have a 308 Norma Mag chambered that was removed from an 03A4 complete with air brakes, mounting the 308 Norma mag barrel on the Rock Island receiver, for me, was not a consideration, one day I will find a Remington 03, 03A3 that needs a barrel,

I received a picture from friends in Yonkers, seems 2 deer up to their ears in snow was news worthy, on Tuckahoe road?

F. Guffey
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  #18  
Old 03-02-2010, 01:18 AM
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Mr. Guffey:
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As to lots, there were none, there was no record as to who was running the furnace on any given day, and serial numbers were not run through the furnace in chronological order.
You have the best of me at the moment by way of reply. I did not make up that lot number item. I remember reading through a list - it may have been in Hatcher's Notebook; it may have been in Brophy's history of the 1903s. I am away from home and, thus, from my books until later today. I will endeavor to supply the source of that lot stuff.
Perhaps we are using the term "lot" differently. There are lists of production dates for serial numbers. Certain series of numbers, "lots", if you will, show more failures than other series. As to records of who was running the furnaces, that detail is unimportant, given the nature of the process as described earlier.
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  #19  
Old 03-02-2010, 10:07 AM
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Pete, good to hear from you

Most condemn the rifle, I condemn Springfield, there is no excuse for building 1,000,000 rifles and at the end of that run not be able to determine which rifles is safe or who was running the furnace, there is a remote chance all failures could be traced to one person, the one that never worked in a black smith shop, I believe all the Low Numbers rifles were marginal.

Something was going wrong for them to stop production, again I am a fan of the British and their effort and design, the P14 and thankful they furnished the equipment used for the manufacturing of the M1917, again Springfield started using nickel in the process 32 years after John Browning demanded it be used in the Model 94, the Model 94 was not going to be placed in production until it was fixed, that is when Winchester agreed to go with nickel steel. I make no excuses for Springfield's incompetence, Winchester and Browning were just a buggy ride down the freeway.

Even if there was not a flawed system at Springfield, they did not have a clue as to how they were going to increase production, just in case there was a war, again when we needed them (Springfield) they were not there, I see a pattern, the 30/40 Krag, the 03 Springfield, they did not get serious until the British Enfield was considered, We Americans could not handle that, with all the talent in this country and we adopt a British design? 10 Years after the end of WW1 Springfield discovered nickel, I make no excuse for them.

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Old 03-02-2010, 01:23 PM
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Can't recall the process dates and would have to look, but I believe Frankford went from the dubious case hardened steel to nickel steel directly?. Springfield took the intermediate step of double-heat treating the original steel, or something close to it, for something like a couple hundred thousand rifles. I understand those and the low numbers are the smoothest feeling actions because they both have case hardened surfaces, but of the two, only the double-heat treated ones have the more malleable core that prevented shattering. Then Springfield switched to nickel to save the extra process steps involved in double-heat treating later.

Springfield was certainly sloppy. It seems to me that after the original investigation of 68 or so (?) blown receivers, Springfield let more get into the mix that had been sitting around after the changes. (In the end, weren't there more like a hundred damaged rifles, post investigation guns included?) There are gaps in Springfield's record keeping. They just didn't take it seriously enough.

I forget who it was that said of WWI, we went to war with a target rifle, the Germans with a sporting rifle, and the British with a battle rifle?
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